We could drive through red lights, grab food from the store without paying, take a week off of work without telling anybody, and the list goes on and on.
If we didn't have rules to live by, then we would live based on how we feel from day-to-day. In essence we would be driven by emotion rather than rules or commitments.
And if we continue to live life without rules or commitments, then chaos will result.
Emotions change. Rules guide. People need guidance because emotions change.
You know what else doesn't change easily? Our beliefs.
Belief is power. Beliefs control actions in life. Beliefs also stem from our attitudes.
If we change our attitude, then we change our behavior.
So what does all of this have to do with health?
Our emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and actions regarding making food and beverage choices are routine and comfortable to us.
It is routine and comfortable to wake up in the morning and grab a coffee and doughnut. It is routine to grab a burger and fries at lunch. It is comfortable to stay home for dinner and call for pizza delivery. And, hey, why not add a 2-liter soda and side of breadsticks for a couple more bucks!
I'm sure you have seen these healthy guidelines (aka healthy rules) listed below:
- Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
- Drink water.
- Limit fast food and convenience food items
- Limit junk foods
- Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy foods.
These guidelines have been developed because there are countless studies proving them to be beneficial to our health.
These rules, unfortunately are being ignored. Over two-thirds of our nation is overweight or obese.
We have gotten used to ignoring foods that are good for us.
For many of us, we have either grown up eating junk food and we don't know any different, or we have developed a positive attitude toward junk food and believe it is okay to eat on a day-to-day basis.
Contrary to the belief that non-nutritive foods are okay to eat and are acceptable in the American diet is the reality that illness and disease continues to rise.
We are consuming an abundance of unhealthy foods and beverages and this should not be acceptable.
We are ignoring the "healthy rules" listed above.
As a clinical dietitian, I see first-hand, the consequences that arise (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, death) when individuals do not follow healthy rules of eating.
It is also important to note the responsibility of big business and how it has contributed to our sense of comfort consuming non-nutritious foods.
We are bombarded by images and commercials with greasy burgers, fries, ice cream, and candy daily.
It's also not surprising why we associate these images and commercials with positive thoughts and attitudes as there are scantily clad models, smiley faces, and happy families consuming them.
So, does the responsibility to provide healthy American food fall on big business or the consumer?
From a business standpoint, businesses supply consumers non-nutritive foods because they are demanded. Businesses remain successful because they are supplying demanded products to consumers and pocketing billions of dollars.
There is no reason for big business to change.
From a consumer standpoint, consumers buy convenience foods and beverages because we believe there is not enough time to prepare food ourselves. The fast, convenient food tastes really good too! We have created positive attitudes toward convenience foods and beverages because they are fast and taste good.
Why should we change?
If big business is happy producing unhealthy foods and beverages and we are comfortable with consuming them, then what's the big deal?
The answer to this question is up to you based on your beliefs, attitudes, and expectations.
However, one main reason our country continues to get bigger is because we are making excuses for not following healthy rules.
If we continue to make excuses for not living a healthy lifestyle, then, we will never succeed.
If we continue to excuse our unhealthy choices and allow the exceptions, then we will fail to reach our potential of successful healthy living.
No matter the environment we grew up in, nor the positive attitudes we may have developed regarding plentiful consumption of non-nutritive foods, we must understand our society is now facing consequences of not following a healthy diet including illness, disease, and death.
If you do have hope for your health and you would like to get out of your comfort zone, as uncomfortable and awkward as it may feel, then you are ready to change your health.
You are responsible for changes in your life.
Change is uncomfortable.
It's time to get uncomfortable.
But, don't worry, in due time, you will be comfortable living your new healthy lifestyle and you will never look back!
And if you don't believe me, go ask a Registered Dietitian ;)